Are you putting a chunk of your paycheck towards your cellphone service? Many people are. According to a 2014 study by Cowen and Company, the average bill for customers of three major providers (Verizon, AT&T and Sprint) was over $140, except for T-Mobile, which came in at $120.
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Even so, who wants to pay almost $1,700 per year for their cellphone service? If you haven’t stopped to think about how much you’re spending on your phone, that total may shock you. You could go on a fairly nice vacation with that money, or make a huge dent in your debt.
The good news is there are ways around paying a large bill. Let’s take a look at four different cellphone hacks that can save you major money.
1. Switch Your Service Provider
The most drastic change in your bill will likely come from switching your cellphone service provider. There are many different alternatives out there besides the big four that have made huge strides in their offerings over the past few years.
Your biggest savings may be in the form of shifting to a “pay as you go” contract. Start by reviewing how many minutes and how much data you use each month to see if those “buffet” plans are even worth it. It may make sense to shift to a “pay as you go” contract if you are using significantly fewer minutes than you expected.
There has been quite a bit of innovation in the cellphone business and if you haven’t shopped around lately, you might not have even heard about them.
The first is the use of Wi-Fi instead of a cell network for service. Providers like Republic Wireless have phones that will default to using Wi-Fi if a signal exists, like in your own home, which won’t cost you any minutes or data. The technology will even shift from cell service to Wi-Fi when you enter an area where you have Wi-Fi service, with no disruption.
There are many other choices out there if you find yourself dissatisfied with how much you’re paying your current provider. Just as you shop around with your insurance providers, you can (and should) shop around for your cellphone provider.
Remember, you may have to pay an upfront deposit with some carriers if you don’t have a good credit score. You can see where you stand by viewing your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com.
2. Negotiate With Your Current Service Provider
Maybe you don’t want to deal with the hassle of switching your service provider. It can be a little time consuming to check out all the providers, plans and phones out there.
The easiest step you can take to lower your cellphone bill right now is to call up your service provider and ask if there’s anything they can do for you price-wise.
Are you serious about switching providers if you can’t get a lower rate? Arm yourself with alternatives and then tell them that, but be polite about it. Demanding a different, less expensive plan isn’t likely to get you anywhere… but asking politely may do the trick.
Sometimes, customer service agents are able to give you a bit of a break. They might be able to lower your monthly payment by $5 to $10. Other times, they may have their hands tied. It may be worth calling back to negotiate with someone else, but don’t spend too much of your time on this step.
If negotiating didn’t work, ask your service provider if there are any other plan options available to you. You can also do a bit of research on your own.
Do you know how much data you’re using each month? You could be paying for more “plan” than you need. Maybe you’re on Wi-Fi a lot, and barely use a gig of data each month. Make sure you’re on the lowest data plan offered.
Or maybe you use a lot of data, but you didn’t know until now. Analyze which apps are using the most data, and change how often they retrieve data. If you can get by with your email being fetched every 30 to 60 minutes instead of every minute, you’ll save on data usage. Switch over to using Wi-Fi whenever possible, too.
4. When Switching, Do the Math
To put this all together: Don’t just take the numbers at face value when considering a switch. You need to crunch them to make sure everything works out in your favor.
Are you taking the early termination fees (ETF) into account? Some providers may offer to pay this fee for new customers, but, even if a new plan doesn’t, you could still come out ahead if you’re able to pay much less per month.
For example, maybe you’re currently paying $90 per month and your ETF is $150, and you’re looking at a plan where you can bring your own phone over and pay $30 per month.
Over the year, you’re paying $1,080 for your current service, and you’ll pay $360 for your new service. The $150 ETF is worth paying in that case.
Saving money on your cellphone bill is extremely simple. You just need to know the other options available to you, and you have to be willing to shop around and negotiate. Focus on how much you could be saving if you cut your bill in half, and try one of these methods today.
This article originally appeared on Credit.com.
Jim Wang is the founder of WalletHacks.com, a personal finance blog where he shares unconventional strategies and tactics to get ahead financially and in life. He has appeared in The New York Times, The Motley Fool, Business Week, and other media and radio outlets. See more at www.wallethacks.com and follow Jim on Facebook or Twitter.